Boy Sprouts

An article graced the columns of this periodical some while back, wherein comment was made on the efforts then being put forth to acquaint the youth of this country with the beauties of a language not their own. The particular occa­sion was that on which our revered and beloved Sovereign permitted himself the felicity of reviewing an approved sample of the aforesaid youth drawn up in battle array, armed with ”scout’s knives” and penny broomsticks, and dressed in football knickers, cowboy hats, and costermonger neckties.

As a special mark of grace, and as a fitting climax to what was undoubtedly a historic occa­sion, at a given signal the kingly ears of our Sovereign were assailed with yells of “Yah boo ! yah boo ! Een gonyama yonyama ! Yah boo ! ” What the King thought of “yah boo !” re­search has never revealed, but the present scribe remembers that the cry used to have a most infuriating effect upon the suburban policeman. How strange are the revolutions enacted by the simple passing of the years ! To think that the small boys’ derision of one decade should become the acclamation of kings in the next !

One might almost be pardoned for thinking that the Boy Sprouts organisation had laid down as its life work the task of converting the cat­calls of boyhood into the language of loyalty. Suggestions under this head are not invited. My equanimity wobbles at the idea of our august ruler being saluted with cries of : “Baa, baa! soapsuds !” A thousand times no ! It cannot be for this that the youth of the country expose their degenerate knees to the gaze of the vulgar herd. Not for this, surely, does Sir Robert Bathing Towel find relaxation, after the stern business of defending Mafeking, in teaching the young idea to jibber. No ! There must be something else behind the apparently unmean­ing ritual.

And there is. My encyclopaedia informs me that “the [Boy Scout] movement is largely to inculcate a spirit of patriotism into boys of all classes, and to train up young men to form an intelligent subsidiary force “to the army if necessary.”

So there you have it. Now there is no need to go into hysterics over the obvious—this is not, the “Clarion.” Granted that the ruling class is a capitalist class ; granted that its dominance depends upon a mixture of chicanery and force then is it not justified in recruiting and supplementing its forces from every available source ? It is what one should expect. A carnivorous animal dies when its teeth give out.

You will notice the quotation above given says the movement is largely for the purposes named. We are spared the neceesitv of specu­lation on what one might call the minority report by a letter which appeared in the delect­able “Daily Mail” on March 2nd as follows :

“General Baden-Powell has just received the following:
“186, Strand, Feb. 26, 1914.
“Dear Sir,—Being one of the largest em­ployers of boy labour in the country, we regard with special interest your recent appeal on behalf of the Boy Scout movement. We are of opinion that a training in Scout ideas and methods is so beneficial to all boys that it can­not fail to be in every way an advantage to all the junior members of our staff.
“With a view to extending the movement among our 5,000 or 6,000 boys we have speci­ally deputed a member of our staff to do all in his power for its encouragement.
“We therefore sympathise very cordially with your attempt to widen the area of the Boy Scout movement, and have much pleasure in enclosing a cheque for £500 in support of it.
“We believe that it will be well worth the while of business firms who value efficiency in their staffs to respond liberally to your appeal and so help to increase the number of boys’ whose creed is efficiency, duty, and self-sacri­fice.

So you will see that, apart from being very good value for money in the way of a recruiting sergeant, the toy Scout movement is valuable in another direction. One of the largest exploiters of glabrous youth is willing to back its appreciation of the good work of the movement to the extent of £500. They are quite open and honest about it, and honesty in these days is “rare and refreshing fruit.”

Messrs. W. H. Smith and Son are one of the largest distributors of muck in existence. That it is muck is, of course, not their fault. Their’s is but to sell it. Literature they have their “doots” about, as witness their embargo on the “English Review” some time back. Muck is their forte as distributing agents, and some nice, efficient, self-sacrificing little boys are needed to assist in their beneficent labours. They offer £500 to help in the production of these little gems.

When exploiters of boy labour find it “well worth their while” to invest £500 in the Boy Scout movement you may be sure they are going to get something pretty tangible out of it. Just think of it. “Efficiency” in selling Daily Hog-wash. “Duty”—72 hours per week of it. “Self-sacrifice”—on 5s. per week.

And when he is off duty the movement is “inculcating a spirit of patriotism” and training him up to form “an intelligent subsidiary force to the army.”

Completely beautiful and beautifully com­plete ! To think one can get all that for £500 ! We are a great nation : a very great nation. Long may we wave !

W. T. H.

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